Fifth-year senior safety Earl Wolff didn't put jaw-dropping tackle totals up Nov. 10 against Wake Forest, like he has several times during his career. He didn't have a hand in a turnover like he has 15 times during his first three-plus years on the team.
In fact, Wolff, who has totaled 18 tackles in four different games this year, had a relatively modest final statistics line of five tackles and two pass breakups in the 37-6 victory over the Demon Deacons. However, the WFU game will still go down as an unforgettable game to the native of Raeford, N.C.
His mother, Sharon Davis, recently returned from her deployment to Kuwait, and took in her first football game of the season at Carter-Finley Stadium. The National Guard member left the country right before her son received his degree in sport management last December, and they were reunited for the first time following the win, which clinched bowl eligibility for the Wolfpack.
"As soon as I got dressed and walked out of the locker room, I saw her and she had a big smile on her face," he remembered. "I walked up to her, gave her a hug and a kiss. She told me she loved me and missed me. It's just a blessing to have her back because everybody doesn't get the opportunity to see their family again after they go over there.
"I just thank God every day for her being able to come back and for keeping my family safe while she was gone. It's great to have her back and I'm just going to continue to play the season for her."
Wolff and his mother kept in contact as much as possible when she was overseas, talking every day, but he said nothing compares to being able to see her again in person. She wasn't the only special visitor — about 15 other family members made trips from Philadelphia and Maryland to welcome Davis back to the States and joined the proud mother at the game. Wolff estimated that he had not seen that part of his extended family since he began college.
"There was a big cheering section and it was great to see my family," Wolff said. "I had not seen them in a while."
It isn't the first time that a State football game has served as a makeshift family reunion for Wolff this fall, and it won't be the last.
"I also have a brother in the Marines, he's stationed in Florida, and I have a brother in the Navy, he's stationed in Virginia," he said. "They're still out there, but when we played Miami, my brother came to that game, and my other brother is coming to the Boston College game.
"I really rarely see them because they rarely come home. It was great to see my brother [at the Miami game] because we're really close. I went there for spring break about a year and a half ago, and spent a lot of time with him. We kind of bonded a little more and since that trip, we've been even closer and talking even more."
Although Wolff did not put up huge numbers against the Deacs, he was solid and helped lead a defense that limited Wake Forest to 185 yards of offense and tallied five sacks. The secondary recorded an interception, forced a fumble and limited star receiver Michael Campanaro to five catches for 14 yards. Most importantly, the Pack broke a two-game losing streak, and Wolff has always said he'd rather win than put up big individual numbers.
It was a complete team effort, according to the veteran safety, who ranks eighth in school history with 359 career tackles, and has totaled a team-best 104 in 2012.
"I just give [the credit] all to the coaches, [defensive coordinator] Coach [Mike] Archer, [linebackers] Coach [Jon] Tenuta, [defensive backs] Coach [Mike] Reed and [defensive line] Coach [Keith] Willis," he said. "They had a great game plan and they all worked together to do a great job. The crowd brought energy and we just played through the crowd. We ended up shutting them down and played a great game."
Wolff followed up with 18 tackles against Clemson last Saturday, but was frustrated with allowing 62 points in the Tigers 62-48 victory.